How To Make A Paper Wallet
In order to do this in the most correct form I’m going to give you the most thorough, reasonably secure version of creating a Bitcoin Paper Wallet. There are some steps you could add to this, but I feel that they are superfluous. However, it is possible to do this Tutorial without doing some of the steps. What you must understand is that, in taking shortcuts, you are possibly introducing security holes. If you want the absolute best security you can get follow this Tutorial exactly and you should be safe. If you want OK security then feel free to skip steps you don’t wish to do.
First off we need to cover what you’ll need in order to safely make a Bitcoin Paper Wallet. You’ll need a computer that can boot from a flash drive. You’ll need a printer that plugs in to USB, not wireless or Google Print. You’ll need a flash drive that has at least 2GB of free space, although I’d recommend larger. You’ll need to download an installer to load Linux on this flash drive. Don’t be scared. It’s not hard. Then you’ll need a version of Linux to install on the drive. Finally, you’ll need a copy of the BitAddress.org website directly from GitHub.
An up front warning, I’m writing this assuming you’re on Windows. If you’re running Mac there are tools out there to help you do the same things I’m putting down here. If you’re running Linux already you probably already know how to do most of this. If I get messages and enough demand I can amend this post with instructions for Mac or Linux.
I’m going to assume that your computer can boot from USB because most computers these days can. If it will not do so automatically you may need to hit some keys to force your computer to boot from USB. You may even have to change a setting or two in your BIOS. Check your manuals or hit up Google for instructions on how to do that with your particular computer make and model.
The first step is to download a distribution of Linux that can be placed on a flash drive and made bootable. This is not hard, so don’t be scared. I recommend the latest Ubuntu desktop, but if someone recommends something else to you I have no complaints. Go to Ubuntu’s website.
Click on Download.
Click on Ubuntu Desktop.
Pick the latest version and choose either 32-bit or 64-bit from the dropdown. If you don’t know which one to use, just choose 32-bit. If you were going to install it on your computer to use every day I’d say figure out which one is best, but for making Paper Wallets it really doesn’t matter. Then click Download.
Scroll past the list of sliders asking you to vote with your money. Click on Not now, take me to the download.
Once the file is downloaded, keep track of it. You’ll need it shortly.
The second step is to download the Universal USB Installer from Pen Drive Linux. It’s a simple program that allows you to download a version of Linux from the Internet and install it on a flash drive in just a couple steps. It’s very simple to use and I’ve had a lot of luck with it. Just download the program and run it. Choose the Linux distribution you downloaded earlier from the first dropdown, Ubuntu in this Tutorial. Then insert your flash drive into the computer, select it from the second dropdown, and then click create. Once it says installation complete your bootable Linux flash drive is ready to go.
The third step is to download a copy of the BitAddress.org website. This is provided free on GitHub. BitAddress.org provides a lot of tools for creating wallets and they’re all included in the code. You can create single wallets, nice looking paper wallets, bulk wallets, and multisig split wallets. I don’t recommend brain wallets, so stay away from those and there are better tools to create a vanity wallet so leave that one be as well. But don’t run it from the website. Go to the GitHub link above and look on the right side for the Download ZIP button. Download it to your computer first but do not unzip it. Copy it over to the flash drive you created in the first step.
The fourth step is to shut down your computer and unplug your network cable. If you’re using wireless, possibly shut down your wireless router. Do whatever you must to keep your computer from connecting to the Internet for the rest of this Tutorial. Once your computer is shut down insert and boot from the flash drive you created in the first step. You may have to make a selection depending on the distribution you chose to install. For instance, if you chose Ubuntu, you should select “Try Ubuntu Without Installing”. This will make it so that you can use Ubuntu for a time, reboot your computer, and then go back to Windows like nothing happened.
The fifth step is to use the BitAddress.org ZIP file you downloaded. Once your computer comes up to the desktop go to the File Manager. Find your flash drive in the File Manager and open it up. Locate the bitaddress.org-master.zip file on the flash drive. Double click to open it. You’ll see a folder named bitaddress.org-master. Open that up as well. Find the file named bitaddress.org.html and double click on it to open it.
You should get a browser window that shows the BitAddress.org website. You’ll need to move your mouse around the screen for a while to introduce some randomness called entropy to the random number generator built into the website. You’ll see a bunch of green dots randomly being placed wherever your mouse goes. Once the counter on the site reaches 100% you’ve introduced enough randomness and a wallet Public Address and Private Key pair will show up. Congratulations, you’ve created your first secure Bitcoin Paper Wallet. On the Single Wallet tab you can create as many of these as you like by clicking Generate New Address. All you have to do is write down the key pair or use the Print button on the right to print out the information.
You may think that these wallets aren’t very attractive. Click on the Paper Wallet tab at the top and you’ll see some very nice looking Paper Wallets that look more like the fiat notes everyone is used to. Some other options here would be to print out more than 3 at a time, put more than 3 on a page to make them smaller, or add a password by clicking the box and typing in a password. This will require that you punch in a password when you try to access the funds, which may be a good idea.These wallets print very nicely and look nice stacked in a safe. I know because I used to do that to store my Bitcoin.
You could also use Hide Artwork to simply make a bigger list of the Paper Wallet you saw on the Single Wallet tab. It has the Public Address, Private Key, and the QR code for each. Combine this with the password feature and you have the makings for an encrypted spreadsheet like I mentioned in Education 4. It’s not flashy, of course. It’s low-key, easy to store, easy to hide, and very effective.
On the Bulk Wallet tab you have the option to simply create a list of Public Addresses and Private Keys. The website recommends you use this on your own website to receive Bitcoin. There are much simpler ways of doing this, so I’ll recommend against that particular use. But you can use this method and it works very well.
The only other tab I’d recommend here is the Split Wallet tab. This is used to create the paper version of a multi-sig wallet like you can create in Copay. As a long term storage solution in case of disaster like flood or fire, this is wonderful. For instance you could create a minimum threshold 2 wallet with 3 Shares and print them out. You could store one Share at home, one Share in a bank deposit box, and possibly one Share with a lawyer or family member you trust. If a disaster happens to one of the three the other two could be used to move the funds. You can also use this page to recombine the Shares to get a Master Private Key. I don’t recommend doing this until you want to access the funds stored there.
Once you’re done creating and printing your Paper Wallets just shut down the computer, remove the flash drive from the USB port, connect your computer to the Internet again, and start it back up. Your computer will be the same as it was before you booted from the flash drive, like nothing ever happened. Now, store that flash drive in a lock box or someplace safe. You can use it again the next time you want to create some paper wallets.
So now that you have Paper Wallets, how do you use them? I’ll go over that in my next Tutorial.